In Episode 180 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg compares two demonstrations outside the UN on the same day—one in support of Puerto Rican independence, timed for the meeting of the Special Committee on Decolonization, and one in support of Russian anti-war dissidents, LGBTQ people and indigenous peoples, now all facing harsh repression. The police state tactics seen in Putin's consolidating dictatorship mirror many of those US colonialism has used in Puerto Rico. And Russia's indigenous peoples have been denied self-determination as surely as the Puerto Ricans. Yet the presence of "tankies"—pseudo-leftists in the camp of Russian imperialism—at the independentista rally illustrates how those who support freedom in Puerto Rico and in Russia have been pitted against each other. Yet another example of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system.
The US House of Representatives on Dec. 15 passed the Puerto Rico Status Act, which would allow the island to hold its first binding vote on whether to become the 51st state, an independent country, or a sovereign government in "free association" with the United States. The bill won the support of 217 Democrats and 16 Republicans. But 191 representatives, all Republican, voted against the measure.
In Episode 141 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg defends the notion that he lives on New York's Lower East Side, repudiating those who would insist that his neighborhood is actually the East Village or (worse) NoHo. Weinberg traces the nomenclature controversies going all the way back to the Lenape indigenous villages of the area, Dutch and English colonial settlement, the riots and uprisings of the "Gangs of New York" era, the neighborhood's Puerto Rican identity as Loisaida, the origin of the name "East Village" in the hippie explosion of the 1960s, its cooptation by the real estate industry in the gentrification of the 1980s, and the resultant last gasp of anarchist resistance. Weinberg counts himself among a surviving coterie of old-timers who still consider the entire area to be the Lower East Side. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 63 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg draws a parallel between the self-determination struggles in Taiwan and Puerto Rico. Each is an island nation in the "backyard" of a great imperial power, struggling for its independence. Taiwan is de facto independent from China, with a movement to make it official. Puerto Rico is a de facto colony (officially "unincorporated territory") of the United States, with a movement for independence. Taiwan is being particularly threatened at this moment by the imperial power that covets it; Puerto Rico particularly fucked over at this moment by the imperial power that controls it. Yet the emergence of Taiwan-Puerto Rico solidarity is held back by the fact that their respective imperial metropoles are rivals on the geopolitical chessboard—another illustration of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system.
More than 270,000 people have been affected by heavy winds and torrential rain since Tropical Cyclone Eloise made landfall in Mozambique on Jan. 23. Schools and health centers were flattened and more than 20,000 people were displaced in the region, which is still recovering from the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai almost two years ago. Despite considerable investments in reconstruction and disaster prevention since Idai—one of southern Africa's worst ever weather-related disasters—Mozambique remains among the world's most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. Addressing the aftermath of Eloise, the UN's resident coordinator in Mozambique, Myrta Kaulard, told reporters: “This is really a very bad wake-up call of how much Mozambique is exposed to climate. This yearly rendezvous with the cyclonic season is just too frequent for recovery to progress.”
In Episode 43 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the current wave of popular protest and uprisings around the world, and asks if the planet is approaching another moment of revolutionary possibilities, such as was seen in 2011. He examines the prospects for these disparate movements to build solidarity across borders, repudiate ethnic and national divide-and-rule stratagems, and recognize the enemy as transnational capital and the authoritarian states that serve it. With discussions of Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras, Costa Rica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Guinea. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Puerto Rico on Aug. 7 swore in its third governor in less than a week, Wanda Vázquez Garced, after the removal of Pedro Pierluisi by order of the commonwealth's Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that his appointment was unconstitutional. Pierluisi had been the chosen successor of Ricardo Rosselló of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), who stepped down Aug. 2 following two weeks of mass protests. The protest wave began after group chats between Rosselló and his staff were made public, disclosing ugly homophobic and misogynistic comments aimed at political rivals, including San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz of the opposition Popular Democratic Party (PPD). The comments also included cruel "humor" aimed at victims of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017.
A Jewish school on the Tunisian island of Djerba, home to one of North Africa's ancient indigenous Jewish communities, was attacked Jan. 9 as anti-government protests raged elsewhere around the country. Petrol bombs hurled at the school caused property damage but no injuries, the head of the local Jewish community, Perez Trabelsi, told Reuters. Trabelsi suggested the assailants exploited the fact that there was a reduced security presence in Djerba, as police were occupied elsewhere repressing anti-austerity protests. "Unknown people took the opportunity of the protests and threw Molotov cocktails into the lobby of a Jewish religious school in Djerba," he said. (Haaretz)